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Eleider Alvarez Knew When to Go to the ‘McIntosh’ to Shock Kovalev

Bernard Fernandez

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McIntosh

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – Until late Saturday night, most people probably knew McIntosh as the Binghampton, N.Y.-based manufacturer of high-end audio equipment. After underdog Eleider Alvarez’s no-doubt-about-it, seventh-round knockout of WBO light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev, however, it might also stand for the concussive sound of punches to the jaw, as loud and unmistakable as the riffs of the late, great Keith Moon, the wild ’n’ crazy drummer who helped make The Who one of the best rock bands ever to take the stage.

References to musicians, like Moon, who flashed across the night sky like comets and then vanished into the memories of  their fans seem especially appropriate given the venue for Kovalev-Alvarez, the first fight card held at the newly refurbished Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, the former Trump Taj Mahal which shone like a diamond after a $500 million transformation. Gone are the massive chandeliers and India-themed accoutrements that marked its previous incarnation; in are electric guitars and drum kits used by a phalanx of Grammy Award winners who topped the charts for however long they were able to keep their sound fresh and in demand, and their bodies capable of holding up to the demands of a relentless, wearying lifestyle.

After he was sent crashing to the canvas three times in that fateful seventh round, the possibility now appears to be very real that the 35-year-old Kovalev (32-3-1, 28 KOs) may have run out of the kind of smash hits he used to deliver instead of taking. The “Krusher” from Russia now has lost three of his five most recent bouts, including stoppages by Andre Ward and Alvarez, a career slump marked by an alarming tendency to lose energy and power into the middle rounds.

“I think Sergey tends to run out of gas after six rounds,” said Main Events CEO Kathy Duva, Kovalev’s promoter. “That seemed to be the magic round with Ward, too. He did great for six rounds and then faltered. I assume he got tired.”

Although Kovalev has a rematch clause that he and his support team could enforce sooner rather than later, Duva hinted that their guy might be better served to take some time off to consider his options. That could open the door for Colombia-born, Montreal-based Alvarez – finally a star, if only temporarily – to proceed to a unification showdown with another Russian, Dmitry Bivol (14-0, 11 KOs), who retained his WBA 175-pound title with a workmanlike unanimous decision over Isaac Chilemba (25-6-2, 10 KOs) in the first half of the HBO-televised doubleheader. Other holders of alphabet light heavyweight straps are the WBC’s Adonis Stevenson (29-1-1, 24 KOs) and still another Russian, the IBF’s Artur Beterbiev (12-0, 12 KOs).

For his part, Bivol expressed disappointment that countryman Kovalev, a 1-to-6 favorite in Atlantic City’s newly opened sports books, had lost, and not just for reasons of nationalistic pride.

“My team had negotiations regarding Kovalev being my next fight, to unify the championship,” Bivol noted. “Sergey was a great champion. It’s unfortunate that he lost the title, but I would want the same opportunity to have a unification in December as discussed. If it’s Alvarez, I would be happy to fight Alvarez.”

Alvarez also would be happy to fight someone, anyone, for a unified title, although he doesn’t expect it to be Stevenson, for whom he somehow was the mandatory challenger for three years without ever getting a shot at the brass ring. It’s no wonder he and his advisers fairly jumped at the chance to get it on with Kovalev, who, if what they say is to be believed, appeared to be increasingly vulnerable for the same reasons that had worried Duva.

“We saw a couple of things, not only in the Ward fights but in other Kovalev fights,” said Alvarez’s trainer, Marc Ramsay. “We knew at the beginning of the fight that Kovalev was going to be dangerous. But we were ready to let some rounds go because our game plan was to bring Kovalev into the second part of the fight and go a little more physically with him. It worked.”

Through the mid-point of the scheduled 12-rounder, the Alvarez plan – the key component of which was the strategic deployment of a combination Ramsay had dubbed “the McIntosh” – probably seemed successful only in the minds of fighter and trainer. Kovalev was up on all three official scorecards, 59-55 on those submitted by Joseph Pasquale and Lynne Carter and 58-56 on Carlos Ortiz Jr.’s, and he had a big round in the fourth, when he landed 25 of 60 non-jabs (power punches) according to CompuBox. But, as Ramsay had anticipated, even then Kovalev’s vaunted arsenal was being downgraded to small-arms fire.

“I knew it would be a tough fight, and it was a tough fight,” Alvarez said. “But the game plan was working exactly as we wanted it to. After the sixth round, Marc told me to fight Kovalev on the inside. He saw that Kovalev didn’t have the same power as in the beginning of the fight. I threw a certain combination we call `the McIntosh’ and that was the end of the fight.

According to Ramsay, the so-called McIntosh is not really a secret, previously unused weapon he had Alvarez pull out of his trick bag. “The `McIntosh’ comes from a fight where Eleider knocked (he didn’t specify the opponent) out a couple of years ago,” he said. “it’s a jab to the body and a right hand over the top.”

So why “McIntosh”? Why not “Apple” or “Microsoft”?

“If I say `McIntosh,’ the other guy has no idea what I’m talking about,” Ramsay explained.

In the corner prior to round seven, Ramsay told Alvarez to put the full Mac on a presumably wilting Kovalev, who had fired most of his remaining bullets in the fourth round that hadn’t resulted in the knockout he so clearly was seeking.

“I tried it a lot, but I told Marc I needed one more time,” Alvarez said of the combo that will be the talk of boxing until, well, it isn’t. “I wanted to knock him out (after the first knockdown, which clearly had deposited Kovalev into the danger zone) because he might be too tough afterward. I knew that he was hurt and I went for the kill.”

Referee David Fields would have been justified had he waved the fight off after Kovalev went down a second time, arising on legs as shaky as those of a newborn fawn, but he allowed the champion one more opportunity to fight his way out of deepening trouble. Alvarez did not let him off the hook, once more McIntoshing Kovalev into a horizontal plane as emphatically as possible. The end came after an elapsed time of 2 minutes, 45 seconds.

Should Kovalev have reached the end of his heady run as a top 10 pound-for-pound kind of fighter, the more compelling question might be whether Alvarez is ready to try on his vanquished foe’s shoes to see if they’re a comfortable fit. He wouldn’t be the first fighter of fairly recent vintage to become an overnight sensation; think Thailand’s Srisasket Sor Rungvisai, the junior bantamweight who burst into instant prominence as the result of back-to-back victories over Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez. For those who care to reach further back in history, remember that James Toney was a 20-1 underdog and was far behind on points when he dethroned IBF middleweight champion James Toney with the sort of late explosion that Alvarez laid on Kovalev. But for every fighter who legitimizes himself with the sort of exclamation-point victory that Alvarez is now enjoying, there are others who rose to the occasion and just as quickly slipped from prominence.

“It was a great performance by Eleider. Tonight a star was born,” said Yvon Michel, who promotes Alvarez. “I said beforehand that after this fight, you all will know who Eleider is.

“We always said the fight will be decided the way that Eleider laid the trap for the punches that would ensnare Kovalev.”

So salute “The McIntosh,” the fight game’s flavor of the moment. Salute, too, the 34-year-old Alvarez, who waited and waited for a chance to demonstrate to the world that he really is what he always has claimed to be, which is a fighter whose light too long has been hidden under a basket of anonymity.

Also deserving of plaudits are the Hard Rock, which sold all 5,600 of its seats in the Etess Arena in a glorious return not only to the venue, but to Atlantic City, which might soon be enjoying its own rebirth as a destination fight town after long years of neglect.

“We’re back,” a saddened Duva said, looking for positives in a night that didn’t have many for Team Kovalev. “The city’s back. From that aspect we had a wonderful night.”

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 82: Jason Quigley Returns to SoCal and More

David A. Avila

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Southern California prizefighting heats up with Jason Quigley headlining a fight card in Orange County and then, two days later, another fight card takes place in the heart of Los Angeles.

Ireland’s Quigley (17-1, 13 KOs) faces Mexico’s Fernando Marin (16-4-3, 12 KOs) on Thursday Jan. 23, at the OC Hangar in Costa Mesa, Calif. DAZN will stream the Golden Boy Promotions fight card live.

Quigley, 28, seeks to reclaim territory lost when he suffered a defeat last July against Tureano Johnson. Ironically, Marin would lose 10 days later in Hollywood to super welterweight contender Serhii Bohachuk.

For several years Quigley had trained in Southern California but decided to change trainers and location. He moved to Great Britain and still prepares near his native country but primarily fights in the U.S.

At one time Quigley clamored for a match against Gennady “GGG” Golovkin or Saul “Canelo” Alvarez but now finds himself trying to prove he belongs in the upper tier of the middleweight division. It’s loaded with talent.

Also on the same fight card will be popular North Hollywood super welterweight Ferdinand Kerobyan who was headed to contender status when he ran into Blair “the Flair” Cobbs. At the time Cobbs was an unknown quantity but no longer.

Kerobyan (13-1, 8 KOs) meets Azael Cosio (21-8-2) in an eight-round clash in the semi-main event at OC Hangar. Doors open at 5 p.m.

Red Boxing International

On Saturday Jan. 27, Red Boxing International hosts its first boxing card of the year at Leonardo’s Night Club located at 6617 Wilson Ave. L.A. 90001. Doors open at 5 p.m.

Super welterweight Bryan Flores (13-1, 6 KOs) meets Brandon Baue (15-17) in the main event  in the first event of the year for the ambitious promotion company. For the past two years Flores fought primarily in Tijuana, Mexico where he racked up six wins. Now he’s back on Southern California soil.

Another match features lightweights Angel Israel Rodriguez (5-0) facing off against Braulio Avila (3-6) in a six-round fight.

Rodriguez fights out of Pico Rivera, Calif. but recently fought in Costa Rica where he won by first round knockout in November. He will be fighting Avila who just fought two weeks ago at the Chumash Casino in Santa Ynez, Calif.

It’s a long fight card with 11 bouts on the schedule.

JRock and Rosario

Boxing fans received another lesson on never underestimating a ranked contender regardless of the name recognition.

Jeison Rosario knocked out Julian “J Rock” Williams who was making the first defense of the WBA and IBF super welterweight world titles he won last year in my selection as “Fight of the Year.”

Rosario walked in with little recognition and was thought to be a soggy piece of bread for Williams. The long armed Dominican fighter walloped Williams in front of his hometown fans in Philadelphia. It was yet another warning for fans to understand that anyone who steps in the boxing ring ranked as a contender can do the unthinkable. In this case Rosario knocked out the champion in five rounds.

Many felt Williams was far too skilled, especially on the inside where he showcased those skills last May against former titlist Jarret Hurd. It was a remarkable display of the art of inside fighting. But against Rosario, he never got a chance to exhibit those skills.

The loaded super welterweight division has another dangerous champion in Rosario.

Fights to Watch

Thurs. 6 p.m. DAZN – Jason Quigley (17-1) vs Fernando Marin (16-4-3).

Sat. 6 p.m. Showtime – Danny Garcia (35-2) vs Ivan Redkach (23-4-1).

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Recalling Three Big Fights in Miami, the Site of Super Bowl LIV

Arne K. Lang

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The San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs collide on Feb. 2 in Miami in Super Bowl LIV (54) in what will assuredly be the biggest betting event to ever play out on American soil. It’s the 10th Super Bowl for the South Florida metropolis which ties it with New Orleans as the most frequent destination for football’s premier attraction.

With its heavily Latin population, Miami would seem to be natural for big fights. However, this hasn’t been the case. Several great champions fought here, including Roberto Duran who twice defended his world lightweight title in these parts, but these weren’t big fights. In the case of Duran, his opponents were lightly regarded and the Panamanian legend was still three years away from his first encounter with Sugar Ray Leonard, a match that increased his name recognition a hundred-fold.

There were, however, three fights in Miami that summoned the interest of virtually all of America’s A-list sportswriters. Here they are in reverse chronological order.

Aaron Pryor vs. Alexis Arguello (Nov. 12, 1982)

Alexis Arguello (72-5) was bidding to become boxing’s first four-division champion. In his way stood WBA junior welterweight title-holder Aaron Pryor (31-0, 29 KOs), a man now widely regarded as the best 140-pound boxer of all time.

Arguello, a Miami resident, having been exiled from his Nicaraguan homeland by the Sandanista rebel occupation, was a textbook boxer who defeated his opponents with surgical efficiency. Pryor was a typhoon. He mowed down his opponents with relentless pressure. It was a great style match-up and it didn’t disappoint. Contested before nearly 30,000 at Miami’s iconic Orange Bowl, Pryor vs. Arguello was a fight for the ages.

“There was power, finesse, poise, courage and a tremendous ebb and flow,” said Associated Press writer Ed Schuyler who dubbed it Manila in Miniature. In the ninth, 11th, and particularly the 13th rounds, Arguello hit Pryor with straight right hands that would have felled an ordinary fighter, but Pryor had an iron chin.

In the 14th, Pryor buckled Arguello’s knees with a straight right hand and then unloaded a furious combination as Arguello fell back against the ropes. He was out on feet when referee Stanley Cristodoulou intervened and he would lay prone on the canvas for several minutes before he could be removed to his dressing room.

Sonny Liston vs. Muhammad Ali (Feb. 25, 1964)

If you happen to find a poster for this fight with the name Muhammad Ali on it, don’t buy it. It’s bogus. Liston met up with Muhammad Ali in their second fight. In their first encounter, Liston opposed Cassius Clay.

Clay’s Louisville sponsors, after a brief flirtation with Archie Moore, settled on Angelo Dundee as his trainer. Angelo operated out of his brother Chris Dundee’s gym located at the corner of 5th Street and Washington Avenue in Miami Beach. The fighter who took the name Muhammad Ali trained here and kept a home in Miami for most of his first six years as a pro.

Clay/Ali was 22 years old and had only 19 fights under his belt when he was thrust against heavyweight champion Sonny Liston at the Miami Beach Convention Center. Liston was riding a 28-fight winning streak after back-to-back first-round blowouts of Floyd Patterson.

In a UPI survey, 43 of 46 boxing writers picked Liston. “Clay has no more chance of stopping Liston than the old red barn had of impeding a tornado,” wrote Nat Fleischer, the publisher of The Ring magazine.

This would be the first of many famous fights for Muhammad Ali who emerged victorious when Liston quit after the sixth frame citing an injured shoulder. What is not widely known, however, is that the fight, which was shown on closed-circuit in the U.S. and Canada, was a bust at the gate. The 16,448-seat Convention Center was only half full.

The expectation that Liston would take the lippy kid out in a hurry depressed sales, as did sky-high ticket prices ($250 tops when $100 was the norm). And there may have been more subtle factors. “This may not be the best place for a fight between two Negroes,” wrote Robert Lipsyte of the New York Times, cognizant that people of color were not welcome as guests at the ritzy beachfront hotels along Collins Avenue.

Jack Sharkey vs. W. L. (Young) Stribling (Feb. 27, 1929)

A big fight, as I define it, doesn’t have to be a blockbuster. An important fight that produces an upset automatically becomes a bigger fight in hindsight. The Sharkey-Stribling fight of 1929 didn’t draw an immense crowd by Jack Dempsey standards, but the turnout, reportedly 35,000, far exceeded expectations and the fight – which preceded Miami’s first Orange Bowl football game by six years — really established Miami as a potentially good place for a big sporting event.

Promoted by the Madison Square Garden Corporation, the bout was originally headed to a dog racing track but it quickly became obvious that a larger venue was needed. A stadium was erected on a Miami Beach polo field, taking the name Flamingo Park (not to be confused with the thoroughbred track of the same name).

Slated for 10 rounds, the bout was conceived as one of two “eliminators” to find a successor to Gene Tunney who had retired. What gave the fight it’s primary allure, however, was the North-South angle. Sharkey, born Joseph Zukauskas, hailed from Boston. Stribling, born into a family that traveled the fair circuit with a variety act, was from Macon, Georgia.

The fight, which aired on the NBC radio network, was a dud, a drab affair won by Sharkey who had the best of it in virtually every round. Both went on to fight Max Schmeling for the world heavyweight title. Stribling, dubbed the “King of the Canebrakes” by Damon Runyon, lost by TKO in fight that was stopped late in the 15th round. Sharkey took the title from Schmeling on a split decision after losing their first meeting on a foul.

Young Stribling died in a motorcycle crash at age 28, by which time he had engaged in 251 documented bouts, the great majority of which were set-ups. Jack Sharkey lived to be 91.

—-

The strong earnings of the Sharkey-Stribling bout inevitably drew the Madison Square Garden Corporation back to Miami for an encore. On Feb. 27, 1930, Jack Sharkey opposed England’s “Fainting” Phil Scott. Four years later, on March 1, 1834, Primo Carnera defended his world heavyweight title here against former light heavyweight champion Tommy Loughran, the Philadelphia Phantom.

Both bouts were big money losers, as were the great majority of major fights during this period. Eight months after the Sharkey-Stribling cash cow, the stock market crashed, plunging the United States into the Great Depression. Few Americans could afford to vacation in Florida, let alone travel anywhere for a big fight.

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Star Power: Ryan Garcia and Oscar De La Hoya at West L.A. Gym

David A. Avila

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Under gray skies and very cool temperatures Ryan Garcia arrived with his father and a couple of others at the Westside Boxing Gym on Monday.

Waiting anxiously were about 100 people comprised of mostly videographers and photographers who had already surrounded Oscar De La Hoya who arrived earlier.

Golden Boy greets the Flash.

Garcia (19-0, 16 KOs) has a fight coming soon against Nicaragua’s Francisco Fonseca (25-2-2, 19 KOs) on Friday Feb. 14, at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. The Golden Boy Promotions show will be streamed by DAZN.

“I’m ready for this fight,” Garcia said quickly.

Some say it has been a rather quick road for the fighter from Victorville known as the Flash. But if you ask Garcia, it has been too slow.

“I think he (Garcia) will be world champion this year,” said De La Hoya, CEO of Golden Boy Promotions.

Years ago, De La Hoya arrived with the same hoopla but his travel to the top seemed even faster. By his fifth pro fight he was matched with Jeff Mayweather. Yes, those Mayweathers. At the time Mayweather had fought 27 professional fights and had only two losses. De La Hoya stopped him in four.

In his eighth pro fight De La Hoya met Troy Dorsey, a tough Texan who had formerly held the IBF featherweight world title and who would later win a super featherweight world title. De La Hoya stopped him in one round.

Two years after winning the Olympic gold medal in Barcelona, the Golden Boy met WBO world titlist Jimmi Bredahl at the Olympic Auditorium and after dropping him several times finally stopped him in the 10th round. It was De La Hoya’s first world title and he was 21 years old.

Garcia is now 21 and ready to test the loaded lightweight division waters. For a while he was fighting at super featherweight, a division loaded with talent. But lightweights are the Maginot Line when it comes to boxing’s big hitters. Everybody can punch in the 135-pound limit lightweight division.

When Garcia met Romero Duno last November in Las Vegas many expected the speedy Victorville fighter to get his come-uppance. Instead the lanky slugger lit up the strong Filipino fighter and dropped him into the ether world.

It was mesmerizing stuff.

Now he’s back with a load of credibility after shutting down detractors with his devastating knockout win over Duno. It wasn’t supposed to be that easy. Just like it wasn’t supposed to be that easy when De La Hoya raced by world champions like Secretariat did in the Kentucky Derby decades ago. It’s not supposed to be that easy, but for some it truly is.

Garcia seems to be headed for a journey so remarkable that he has other world champions like WBC titlist Devin Haney eyeing him for their next challenges. It barely results in a yawn for the fighter who will be facing a very credible foe in Fonseca next month.

“I’m not even the champion and he’s calling me out,” said Garcia with a whatever kind of look.

Other fighters and promoters can see what Garcia represents and want to get a slice of it too. Its intangible yet most of the boxing world can sense something is coming and Garcia might be part of it.

That’s called star power and it’s difficult to explain. Some have it, many want it and others have no chance of ever attaining it.

Time will tell how far Garcia’s star power will venture.

One man lived that life and, in a sense, still lives that life and that is De La Hoya. Even he senses a déjà vu moment with Garcia.

“It’s why we made him one of the richest young prospects in boxing today,” De La Hoya said.

Expect several thousand ardent fans of Garcia to fill the seats on Valentine’s Day. How else can you explain it but, star power.

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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